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Banarasi paan adds flavour to roadside debate in Modi's constituency

twitter-logoPTI | May 23, 2019 | Updated 14:23 IST

By Rajendra Gupta Varanasi, May 23 (PTI) On counting day morning, paan shops here were not just selling the `Banarasi paan’, immortalised in the 'Khaike paan Banaraswala' song from Amitabh Bachchan-starrer ‘Don’. There was also some lively discussion on the menu. The paan shops dotting the temple town became hotspots for debate Thursday -- not on who will win from this Lok Sabha constituency but on the victory margin of the Varanasi MP, Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In 2014, Modi defeated Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal by 3.37 lakh votes. He got 5,16,593 votes, about half of the total cast. The debate was on at the “Baiju Bhaiya Tambul Bhandar” on Sigra road. Manoj Misra predicted a much bigger Modi win. "We expect him to break his own record this time," he said. "The people have this time voted for development. All the caste-related constraints have fallen apart," Misra said. His confidence probably came from the early counting trends that showed Modi surging ahead of his main opponents, Ajay Rai of the Congress and Shalini Yadav of the Samajwadi Party. More than the ‘paan’, the tv installed at the shop appeared to be a bigger draw for some as the trends poured in, predicting a massive NDA victory. Some shopkeepers appeared to have decided to take the morning off, preferring to watch the counting trends on the tv at their homes. Ranjit Thakur, who has his morning cup of tea at the Baldev tea stall in Mahmoorganj, found the shop shut. "Baldevji is an ardent Modi fan. He has kept his shop closed so that he doesn’t not to miss the results, particularly the round-wise trends," Thakur said. "There was no one in the contest against Modi here. Not only in Varanasi, people were voting in his name everywhere and it seems caste-based politics is coming to an end," he said. Prajanath Misra, the district unit president of the Congress, said the counting trends reflected the mood of the people in Varanasi. "It also shows the shortcoming in our management. There appears to be lack of coordination between Lucknow and Delhi. We did not get the star campaigners which we had sought,” he said. “However, we have kept the party alive under such strong opposition at every level," he said. On the opposition SP-BSP alliance in the state, the Congress leader claimed the two parties had come together in Uttar Pradesh only to help Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party. He said had the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party been really serious about the elections, they would have tied up with other opposition parties in the country. Varanasi went to polls in the last phase of the Lok Sabha elections on May 19. The prime minister held a mega show of strength, spread over two days here, before filing his nomination on April 26. During his roadshow, thousands thronged the streets of the temple town, chanting, “Modi, Modi' and 'Main Bhi Chowkidar”. BJP leaders like Amit Shah, Piyush Goyal, Sushma Swaraj and Yogi Adityanath also campaigned in the prime minister's constituency. Opposition parties led by Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Rahul Gandhi, Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati also held roadshows and rallies in Varanasi. Ajai Rai, the Congress nominee against Modi, is a five-time MLA who was once with the BJP. SP-BSP alliance nominee Shalini Yadav is the daughter of former Union minister Shyam Lal Yadav. She contested the mayoral polls in Varanasi in 2017, securing 1.14 lakh votes and finishing second. Briefly, there was a buzz over the possibility of Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi herself taking Modi on in Varanasi. But the Congress decided not to field her. PTI RAJ SAB SMI ASH ASH

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